It’s springtime in Chicago, and one sure sign is the bizarre lines of helmeted tourists teetering on Segways on the biking paths along Lake Shore Drive. When I am stopped at a light and see a group of Segwayers crossing the road, I always think to myself “Those things never really caught on.”
A Dutch company has created a mode of transportation that borrows the technology of Segway and the cool of the skateboard culture.
The Oxboard houses gyroscopes that help a rider maintain equilibrium as they subtly shift their body to guide the two-wheel electric scooter. Gone are the handlebars and the cost. While a new second-generation Segway runs between $6,000 and $8,000, the Oxboard costs around 900 U.S. dollars.
The Segway debuted in 2001 and technology experts hailed its arrival as a transportation game changer. Even Apple’s Steve Jobs was quoted to say Segways were “as big a deal as the PC.”
The technology was cool, but it lacked supporting infrastructure. Most sidewalks are too narrow, there’s no places to park it or charge it and regulations banning them on roads and sidewalks cropped up in many cities. It has seen limited embrace, like with golf courses, tourism and some police work.
Oxboard, which appears light enough to carry, is still very much in start-up mode. It began shipping on May 11 and is slowly building its name by hosting events in the Netherlands to allow people free rides on the devices, which can go about 12 miles on a single charge.
YouTube videos, like the one below, show obviously well-practiced riders cruising effortlessly along streets and sidewalks. While the handlebars on a Segway provide a secure feeling as you adjust your body to how it powers the scooter, an Oxboard clearly requires more self-assured balance.
The company website recommends standing on it for few minutes to relax and within a half hour, “you’ve mastered the controls completely.”
Oxoboard also recommends helmets and knee and wrist guards.